Happy Thursday! Yesterday, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania cast his vote for former House Speaker John Boehner to retake the gavel. If you listened closely on the House floor, we’re pretty sure you could hear Boehner cackling from an undisclosed location in Ohio.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- President Joe Biden visited Israel on Wednesday, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a show of solidarity and in effort to forestall a wider regional conflict. Biden backed Israel’s right to defend itself while cautioning against being “consumed” by rage. “After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States,” the president said. “When we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.” Backed by an independent U.S. intelligence assessment, Biden also concurred with the conclusion reached by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that an explosion at a hospital in Gaza was not the result of an Israeli strike but rather a rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Hamas ally. The president announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank as his administration is reportedly drafting a request to Congress for $100 billion in foreign aid—including assistance for Israel. Biden is scheduled to deliver an address to the nation from the Oval Office tonight at 8 p.m. ET, which is expected to focus on the wars in Israel and Ukraine. Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Department officials targeted Hamas’ funding mechanisms with new sanctions, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Biden’s pick to serve as ambassador to Israel, with a vote expected next week to move his nomination to the floor of the Senate.
- During a visit to Beijing on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters he had ordered Russian fighter jets equipped with hypersonic missiles to perform regular patrols of neutral territory over the Black Sea. “This is not a threat, but we will exercise visual control—control with weapons—over what is happening in the Mediterranean Sea,” Putin said. Of note, the U.S. has moved two carrier strike groups into the Mediterranean in support of Israel in its war against Hamas.
- Eight French regional airports—and one in Belgium—were evacuated on Wednesday over security threats, including bomb threats. The Palace of Versailles, a popular tourist attraction, was also closed briefly Wednesday because of a security concern—the third time in a week the venue has been evacuated. The French and Belgian governments raised their national threat levels this week after a knife attack in northern France last Friday left a teacher dead and a suspected Islamic terrorist shot two Swedish nationals in Brussels on Monday.
- The Pentagon on Tuesday released footage of what it called “coercive and risky operational behavior by [China’s] People’s Liberation Army (PLA) against U.S. aircraft.” The images and videos show maneuvers by Chinese military planes dating back to January 2022, including flying within 20 feet of U.S. planes and flying just in front of a U.S. aircraft, forcing it to fly through the Chinese plane’s wake turbulence which visibly rocks the cockpit. The Department of Defense said the incidents represent a trend of such risky behavior since late 2021. Meanwhile, the heads of intelligence operations from all five of the “Five Eyes” countries—the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom—released a rare joint statement accusing China of intellectual property theft and significant spying and hacking operations against the five anglophone countries, which share intelligence.
- U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Wednesday it had thwarted two drone attacks against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq over the previous 24 hours. The U.S. destroyed one and damaged a second drone in western Iraq, which resulted in some “minor injuries to Coalition forces.” Separately, the U.S. military shot down a single drone in northern Iraq. The drones’ origins are not yet clear. “In this moment of heightened alert, we are vigilantly monitoring the situation in Iraq and the region,” CENTCOM officials wrote in a press release.
- House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan failed yesterday to become speaker of the House for the second time in two days, receiving only 199 votes of the 217 he needed to win the gavel. After securing 200 votes on Tuesday, Jordan on Wednesday lost four House Republicans who had previously voted for him—though he managed to flip a few detractors into his column. Jordan vowed to stay in the race and is expected to make a third attempt on Thursday. Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks—who voted for Jordan on Tuesday but switched her vote on Wednesday—said she received “credible death threats” following Wednesday’s vote, and other House Republicans not supporting Jordan have complained about an intense pressure campaign from Jordan allies. Jordan condemned those threats last night as “abhorrent,” but some House Republicans are examining ways to elevate Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry to give him all the powers of the office—though it’s unclear whether such a move is possible or likely.
- Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Michael Whitaker, advanced through the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday with a unanimous voice vote usually reserved for uncontroversial issues. The former United Airlines executive, who served as the FAA’s deputy administrator during the Obama administration, will be voted on in the full Senate in the coming days and is likely to be confirmed.
- Former President Donald Trump endorsed West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday in a blow to GOP Rep. Alex Mooney, the other Republican vying for Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s seat. Manchin has not yet said whether he’ll run for reelection. On Wednesday, Democrat Phil Ehr announced he was ending his bid to unseat GOP Florida Sen. Rick Scott to instead challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Giménez for Florida’s 28th congressional district. Meanwhile, former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said she’d run to replace Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton after Wexton—diagnosed this summer with progressive supranuclear palsy—announced she would not run for reelection.
‘You Are Not Alone’
On Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv, after a day of meeting with Israeli leadership, President Joe Biden offered a singular message to the people of Israel: “You are not alone,” he said in remarks that were broadcast around the world. “As long as the United States stands—and we will stand forever—we will not let you ever be alone.”
Biden’s trip to Israel yesterday was the first such visit to the country by an American president during a time of war, and it represented his administration’s commitment backing the Israeli government as it responds to Hamas’ terror attacks. That commitment was reiterated on Wednesday, when Biden pushed back against claims—initially made by Hamas and quickly picked up by a number of prominent media outlets—that Israeli forces had struck a hospital in Gaza and killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians. “Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team,” he said, citing intelligence he had seen from the U.S. Department of Defense. Despite such evidence—which appears to have been corroborated by U.S. defense officials, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and independent military analysts—the explosion and the initial reporting of its cause has led to protests across the Middle East, and appears to have altered the geopolitical calculus of a number of players in the region.